- Author: Betsy Buxton
As I sit here after removing ONLY half of the Plumbago bush in the front yard, I'm thinking of an article in ARCHOLOGY Magazine I just read in the March/April 2018 edition by various authors who are studying how gardening was way back when in such places as the Bay of Naples and Pompeii in Italy, Seoul, South Korea, and in Cer`en, El Salvador; so much different from present-day and with fewer tools and other “niceties” to get the work done.
This study started in the mid-twentieth century to understand where people had planted gardens, but also what was planted and how long the gardens were kept going. This was another way to find out more about a population and their cultural practices, and how gardening changed over time.
For instance in the Bay of Naples villa, which Jason Urbanus described, gardens were a sign of wealth – a place for children to play, to provide produce for the family but also a place for adults to relax and to retreat under shade. At both the Villas Arianna and Poppaea, remains of porticoes, flower beds, footpaths, and fountains were found; fountains, too, were there along with a variety of trees. Would you believe that pottery gardens were popular there prior to the eruption of Vesuvius in AD 79? All of the evidence of these garden features was found covered in ash, along with tree root cavities, carbonized plant parts, and the pots themselves.
The Royal Gardens in Seoul, South Korea were constructed on a small island located in the middle of a pond. The garden was created between 1867 and 1873 is named Hyangwonjeong at the Gyeongbokgung Palace. The garden's name means “a pavilion from where scent spread”. As was true at the time, the front yard of a Korean home was traditionally left empty, while the backyard which sometimes led to small nearby mountains was cultivated as a garden. This was true of the palace as well. Currently being excavated by the Ganghwa National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage, according to Hyung-eun Kim, the researchers that the original bridge connecting the island garden to the land was a mere(!) 100 feet long and was destroyed during the Korean War. The bridge has been reconstructed.
The garden in El Salvador was located in a small Maya village of perhaps 200 people when it was buried by a massive volcanic eruption around AD 600. It is surmised that the village households took on the care of a certain type of economic activity for themselves and one such household was responsible for the gardening for the community.
In that one property, 70 agave plants were grown for the fibers the leaves provided, making rope and twine as well as a fast-growing, sturdy cane that was used to reinforced their wattle-and-daub walls of the villagers' houses. When the accumulated ash was removed, numerous chili bushes and at least 1 cacao tree were found. Payson Sheets believes that the surplus produce and products were then bartered for items that the villagers could not provide for themselves.
I thought I was tired after my workout, but I'm thankful for my modern-day tools!